Turkish parliamentary body approves new security law

ANKARA - The internal affairs commission of Turkish parliament approved Thursday an internal security bill that gave enhanced powers to law-enforcement officers and modified domestic security procedures among a host of measures.

The draft law is now expected to make it to the parliament later next week.

The bill was first submitted to the commission in November last year in the wake of last October's protests in the country that resulted in the deaths of dozens of Turkish citizens.

The proposed legislation outlaws possession of fireworks, Molotov cocktails and slingshots during protests. Protesters who cover their faces in demonstrations that take a pro-terrorism tone can now face imprisonment for up to five years.

The bill also gives police enhanced powers to act preemptively in carrying out raids based on intelligence of possible criminal activity. Police will now be authorized to use firearms against those who attack schools, public offices or places of worship with firearms, explosives or other weapons.

Officers will also be able to search a person, their belongings or private vehicles based on oral instructions by police chiefs. The person being searched will be informed of the rationale behind the procedure.

In cases that cause uproar in society -- such as manslaughter, trafficking or sexual abuse -- Turkish police will have the authority to hold a suspect under custody for 24 hours with the approval of the public prosecutor or the deputy governor and under supervision of their superior officers.

With the new law, all transactions involving the “bonsai” -- a cheap, addictive and potent form of a marijuana-like substance -- will be considered as illegal as conducting deals for other drugs.

The bill also says the interior minister will have the power to appoint junior commanders in Turkey's General Command of the Gendarmerie -- the country's paramilitary force -- and the Coast Guard except for admirals in the Coast Guard and generals in the gendarmerie force.

The commission allowed opposition parties till Tuesday next week to prepare their statement of opposition to the law.

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